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25 July 2007
On February 16 2007 Norway acceded to the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments. The convention was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2004 and introduces strict regulations on the control and management of ships' ballast water. Norway was among the first countries to join the convention.
The spread of harmful aquatic organisms in areas where they do not belong has increased in recent decades. This presents a serious threat to biological diversity and human health. For example, the introduction of the American comb jelly to the Black and Azov Seas caused the near-extinction of anchovy and sprat fisheries, while the introduction of Asian Chattonella algae to the southern coast of Norway in the spring of 2001 killed a large number of farmed fish. It is generally accepted that the problem is largely due to the uptake and discharge of ships' ballast water, combined with expanded trade and traffic volume over the last few decades. The purpose of the convention is to reduce and ultimately eliminate this risk.
When the government proposed parliamentary approval of accession to the convention, it pointed out that the Norwegian coastline is among the world's most productive in terms of natural habitats, natural resources and basis for economic production in the marine industry. Norway was active in the negotiations on the convention in order to achieve a strict, effective global regime in this area as soon as possible.
Scope of application
Broadly speaking, the convention applies to ships entitled to fly the flag of a contracting state if they are engaged in international trade (Article 3). States may make exceptions for ships which are, for example, engaged in scheduled voyages between specified ports. Contracting states are obliged to apply the requirements of the convention to ships from non-contracting states as necessary, in order to prevent more favourable treatment.
Restrictions on ballast water uptake and discharge
The convention requires ships to conduct ballast water exchange:
If it is not possible to conduct water ballast exchange as described, it must be carried out as far from the nearest land as possible (at least 50 nautical miles) and in water at least 200 metres deep. In certain instances, contracting states may designate specific ballast exchange areas which do not meet these requirements.
Obligation to clean ballast water before discharge
From 2009 to 2016 various requirements for cleaning ballast water will be phased in (see Regulations B-3, D-1 and D-2). Application of the cleaning requirements will depend on when the ship was built and its ballast water capacity. In 2016 the highest standard will apply to all ships, requiring that the total number of viable organisms and microbes in the discharged ballast water not exceed concentrations equal to the EU standard for 'excellent' bathing water.
Ballast water management plan
In order to ensure compliance with the convention, each ship must implement ballast water management and have on board a ballast water tank record book showing the uptake, discharge and management of ballast water (see Regulations B1 and B-2). The flag state must ensure that ships flying its flag are surveyed and certified in accordance with the convention's requirements.
Port state control
The port state is entitled to inspect whether ships calling at its ports or offshore installations are in compliance with the convention (Article 9). As a rule, the inspection shall be limited to:
If there is reason to believe that the ship is not in compliance with the convention, a more comprehensive inspection may be conducted.
Violation of the convention may result in the ship being:
Contracting states undertake to avoid ships from being unduly delayed by inspection and control measures (Article 12). If undue delay occurs, the ship is entitled to compensation for any loss or damage suffered.
The convention shall enter into force one year after the date on which 30 states have acceded to it whose combined fleets constitute no less than 35% of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant ships. This is a strict requirement. As of May 31 2007 only 10 countries (representing less than 3.5% of the world's merchant fleet) had joined the convention. It is assumed it may be a few years before the convention enters into force internationally.
The convention will be implemented into Norwegian law by regulations issued by the Ministry of the Environment pursuant to Sections 31 to 38 of the Ship Safety Act.
It was anticipated that draft regulations would be subject to a three-month consultation period starting in the Spring of 2007, but the regulations have not yet been made public. Subject to Norway's obligations under international law, the ministry intends to implement the parts of the regulations which will deal with the restrictions on ballast water uptake and discharge set out in the convention in relation to ships calling at Norwegian ports before the convention enters into force internationally. The ministry is considering which areas along the Norwegian coastline will be designated as ballast exchange areas. These provisions were expected to enter into force by the end of 2007, but this is probably too optimistic.
For further information please contact Herman Steen, Gaute Gjelsten or Finn Bjørnstad at Wikborg, Rein & Co by telephone (+47 22 82 75 00) or by fax (+47 22 82 75 01) or by email (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
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